O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
With all the news coming out of Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Gulf Coast these days, are you finding it difficult to pray? In the face of such catastrophe and disaster do you wonder if your prayers are doing any good?
I frequently turn to Psalm 8, a prayer of David, a man who knew a lot about prayer, and who began the collection of prayers we call the Book of Psalms. Wondering if my prayers are effective, I meditate on the prayer of David in today’s scripture text, especially its opening words.
I imagine David out under a bright Judean night sky meditating on the beauty and wonder of God. He thinks of majesty and majesty of God displayed in the heavens, “the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have established” (Psalm 8:3). But David knows that even greater is the glory of God using “the mouths of babes and infants” to defeat His enemies.
Old Testament theologian Bruce Waltke points out that the phrase, “babes and infants,” occurs seven times in the Old Testament. Each time the phrase “refers to the helpless offspring of a people threatened by a ruthless foe (1 Samuel 15:3; 22:19; Psalm 8:2; Jeremiah 44:7; Lamentations 1:16; 4:4; Joel 2:16).” (See Bruce Waltke and James Houston, The Psalms As Christian Worship)
The phrase is a fitting metaphor for ancient Israel who, trapped as a small and insignificant country between the superpowers of Egypt and Mesopotamia, found strength and courage in reliance upon God. We, too, can think of it as a fitting metaphor for today’s church (“babes and infants”), caught between worlds of political and military power.
Today, as we read troubling news, we can know that the words coming “Out of the mouths of babes and infants” are our prayers of humble reliance on Almighty God. David reveals in this psalm that God will show Himself yet more glorious by using our prayers to silence the power of His enemies. John Calvin adds this encouraging commentary on the prayers of God’s “babes and infants”:
“The faithful prayer and praise of God’s people – not necessarily their eloquence — commences God’s work of slaying the foe. What majesty accrues to God when he brings onto the field of battle the poor in spirit against the arrogant hordes of wickedness in order to slay their intolerable pride in the dust.”(John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews)
Scots preacher John Knox is long remembered for his impassioned prayer for revival in his native land: “Give me Scotland, or I die.” In the face of such emboldened prayer, Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
Surely, out of the mouths of the humblest babes and infants (Us!) God is pleased to wield mighty power. “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics)
Let’s keep praying!
A fellow traveler,